Here are a few tips to make your speech more easily understood by Americans.
Watch the consonants “t” and “d.”
Indian speakers of English have what we call a “retroflex” pronunciation of these consonants, meaning they use a different part of their tongue in a different location in their mouth than American English speakers. Try using the tip of your tongue on the bumpy ridge behind your front teeth for a more American sounding “t.” Americans also aspirate the "t" at the beginning of a word, meaning they allow the air to escape. Indian English speakers often hold in the air, making the "t" sound more like American “d.”
Words with the “v” sound at the start of the word or syllable are frequently mis-pronounced as “w.” Practice common words such as very, even, over using your top teeth against your bottom lip to produce American “v.”
Words with “w” sometime sound more like a “v” in an Indian accent. Practice common words such as what, when, where, why, we, were, was, with by rounding your lips and not allowing them to touch your teeth to make the American “w.”
This may seem awkward at first, but “th” in American English is pronounced by putting the tongue between the teeth. Indian English speakers often make a sound which sounds more like a “d” or "t" to American listeners. The sound “th” is one of the most frequently produced sounds, as it is in extremely commonly used words such as the, this, then, with, other, that, they, through, them, these, there, three, thing. In fact, 20 of the 250 most frequently used words in English have “th,” making it a very noticeable error when mispronounced. Get our free ebook to help you with the TH sounds:
Learn American Intonation
American English uses a pattern of rising in pitch to the important word, and then falling off at the end of the phrase. A typical Indian accent will have more of a rising and falling within the phrase or even within the syllables of the word. This makes the speech sound odd and disconnected to the American listener. They may interpret the meaning of the words differently based on intonation. For example, a rising pitch on the last word or syllable of the sentence can make it sound like a question to an American listener. Listen to some examples and read more here.
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